Dutch coach wary of killer Olympic climb
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Thursday, August 7, 2008

Dutch coach wary of killer Olympic climb

by Agence France-Presse at 7:28 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
Dutch cycling coach Egon Kessel is under no illusions about the course for the men's Olympic road race course that will crown one of the Games' first champions on Saturday.

"I know the course from last year's Good Luck Beijing event. I rode the course in a following car at the under-23 race, and I must say this is the toughest course I've ever seen at a tournament event," said Kessel.

Italy's Paolo Bettini will put his Olympic title on the line in the 245km race against the likes of Alejandro Valverde of Spain, Germany's Stefan Schumacher, Luxemburger Kim Kirchen and a strong Australian contingent.

Kessel is hoping his team's big hope, youngster Robert Gesink, has the tools to keep pace on what will likely become a race of attrition - made all the harder by a hilly 23.8km loop to be raced seven times and potentially oppressive atmospheric conditions.

But he admits the main climb on the race has been made to look too easy. "The climb is especially hard," added the Dutchman. "In the road book it says it has an average climbing gradient of four percent, but that is because there's a little knick that goes downhill. The climb itself is much tougher than four percent."

The Dutch are among the privileged nations with five team members and hope to use that to keep Gesink in the mix - although their strategy could change mid-race to favour Karsten Kroon.

"Robert is our team leader and will be protected but it depends on how the race unfolds," said Kessel. "If the race is slow and there's a big group going into the final laps Karsten will have a chance. If it's a hard race with only a few riders up front at the end we hope to have Gesink still there."

He admits that Bettini and Valverde's respective teams will start as the big favourites, but said that Luxembourg trio Frank and Andy Schleck and Kirchen could cause an upset. "The Italians and the Spaniards have the strongest teams. Luxembourg are the outsiders. It's incredible. They only have just over 400,000 inhabitants and they come here with three world class riders."

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